Happy New Year!
See the 2022 spread in my journal there? That’s as far as I’ve got with my speculations about the year to come. I was intending to use the page for the yearly horoscope predictions, but I’m wavering. To avoid thinking about this, I’ve been having a few thoughts about resolutions instead.
This is the traditional time for the social media mavens to weigh in for or against New Year Resolutions and to give very sound reasoning for their decisions. Well, there is nothing like sound reasoning to get me thinking up logical counter-arguments (which is why I value my family and friends for putting up with me). So, here goes.
I think New Year Resolutions are a Good Thing, but I do not personally tend to make New Year Resolutions.
One of the most compelling reasons I come across for not making New Year Resolutions is that it is better to commence a course of action at the time when one encounters the need/desire to instigate change rather than to put it off until the turn of the year. I can’t argue against that, it is the height of commonsense. What I think, however, is that the people who say this are assuming that New Year Resolutions are the same thing as goals and I would argue against that.
To me, resolutions are to goals as promises are to contracts; a resolution is a jumping-off point, a dream, an idea, the germ. I might set a goal at any time of year to lose a specific amount of weight in a particular amount of time by setting a lower level for my daily calorie intake and participating in prescribed forms of exercise. Yet at New Year, my resolution may simply have been to become happier with my body over the coming year. A resolution could thus be seen to precede the goal-setting phase. I would go so far as to say they are synergistic and it’s difficult to have one without the other. I suspect the reason many New Year Resolutions fall by the wayside is because they are not backed up with specific goal-setting, remaining forever suspended in the limbo of good intentions. I might also be so bold as to suggest that none of us set goals without having come to some decision, to have in some way made a resolution that things need to change.
There is another way in which New Year Resolutions pre-date goal-setting and that is when you look at the background. Goal-setting is bright and shiny and modern and it seems that everyone is endorsing it. New Years Resolutions belong to the previous century, they are outmoded, they lack relevance. This is very interesting because it highlights how we are now encouraged to approach our lives as if they are businesses. When it first came to prominence, goal-setting was the habitat of management and sports coaches. Everyday people went to work and carried out the tasks determined by managers, thus contributing to the achievement of the coroporate/team goals. Now everyone is expected to be a manager at work, to be setting their own goals, providing their own navigation, running a team of one in the same way that fewer people would once have run a team of twenty. The same managerial principals have leaked out into personal life and now it feels normal (though not necessarily natural) to set SMART goals in our personal lives and judge ourselves based on our success or failure in a series of self-determined life goals.
We have to travel back in time to understand why New Year Resolutions were more important in the past. For a while this would have been the main time when those portions of the population who had a reasonable standard of living could stop and think about their lives and what changes they would like to make in the coming year. They didn’t have the luxury to constantly contemplate their direction as many of us now do, they were too busy doing the chores and bringing in the money or bringing up the children.
In some moods, I can think that New Year Resolutions are an anachronism, but that’s only really true for those of us who are priviledged enough (or, indeed, have the inclination) to be able to contemplate our place in the universe more than once a year. There may yet be countless people who only really take the time to dream about what could be when the year changes and to them I say good luck – good luck with your resolutions, good luck with the changes you dream of making to your life.